Cullen v Stanley

JurisdictionIreland
CourtSupreme Court (Irish Free State)
Judgment Date06 March 1926
Docket Number(1925. No. 1806.)

Supreme Court.

(1925. No. 1806.)
Cullen v. Stanley
DENIS CULLEN
and
MICHAEL STANLEY and Others (1)

Parliament - Election - Candidate for Dáil Éireann éireann - Definition of "candidate" - Libel - Interlocutory injunction - Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act (46 & 47 Vict. c. 51), sect. 63, sub-sect. 1 - Prevention of Electoral Abuses Act, 1923 (No. 38 of 1923), sect. 11, sub-sects. 1 and 5.

Appeal by the defendants from an order made by Murnaghan J. on February 2nd, 1925, granting an interlocutory injunction against them at the suit of the plaintiff.

Denis Cullen, the plaintiff, an operative baker, was the Labour candidate for the representation of North Dublin City in Dáil Éireann éireann. He is the paid secretary of the National Amalgamated Bakers' and Confectioners' Trade Union of Ireland and president of the Dublin branch of that union, and also vice-president of the Trades Union Congress and Irish Labour Party. He was adopted by the Irish Labour Party as the Labour candidate for the constituency of North Dublin City at a by-election for Dáil Éireann éireann(1).

The defendants, Joseph Michael Stanley, William Balfe, and Patrick Byrne, are printers, trading as "The Gaelic Press."The defendant, James Larkin, is the editor of a paper called"The Irish Worker," which is printed by "The Gaelic Press."

In its issue of January 24th, 1925, "The Irish Worker,"referring to the candidature of the plaintiff, published, under the heading, "Two Labour Skates," the following passage:—"There is another self-styled 'Labour' candidate in the field; Denis Cullen is the lamb for the slaughter. This Cullen—a baker—when a boy in Artane Industrial Schools, volunteered to come out and work as a scab in Downes' bakery during a bakers' strike many years ago, but not too many for it to be forgotten. And Cullen will partner Lawlor in the centre of the limelight in future issues."

On January 29th the plaintiff issued a writ against the defendants, claiming damages for libel and an injunction to restrain the defendants from printing, publishing, and circulating libellous matter of and concerning the plaintiff. On the following day the plaintiff applied to Murnaghan J. for an interlocutory injunction. In his affidavit in support of the motion the plaintiff denied that he came out of Artane Schools to work as a "scab" in Downes' bakery during a bakers' strike. He deposed that the article in "The Irish Worker" referred to a strike between the master-bakers and their employees in 1911, and that he was then in Downes' employment, and went out on strike with his fellow-workmen, and did not resume work until ordered to do so by his union on the settlement of the dispute. He never, at any time, acted in the manner charged. The article containing the libel complained of was meant to convey that he had been unfaithful to trade union principles and disloyal to his fellow-workers, and a person in whom no worker or trade unionist should place any trust. He said that the publication had done, and would continue to do, him very great harm in the trade union movement, and was certain to affect very seriously his candidature at the election, and that he would lose the

support and votes of workers and trade unionists, who constituted a large portion of the electorate in North Dublin City.

The defendant, James Larkin, made an affidavit, in which he stated that "the whole of the allegations in the article entitled 'Two Labour Skates,' complained of by the plaintiff, are true in substance and in fact, and I shall be able to prove the same at the trial of this action by subpoenaing witnesses and by cross-examination of the plaintiff, and by other evidence which I cannot, and which, I submit, I ought not, to have to produce on an interlocutory application." He added that the article complained of was fair comment on matters of public interest. The other defendants made no affidavit, but their counsel stated at the hearing in the Court below that they did not propose to justify the alleged libel.

By sect. 11, sub-sect. 1, of the Prevention of Electoral Abuses Act, 1923 (No. 38 of 1923):—"Every person who, before or during any election and for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at that election, makes or publishes any false statement of fact in relation to the personal character or conduct of such candidate . . . shall be guilty of an illegal practice"; and by sub-sect. 5:—"Any person who shall make or publish any such false statement as is mentioned in this section may be restrained by injunction from any repetition of such false statement or any false statement of a similar character in relation to such candidate, and for the purpose of granting an interim injunction prima facie proof of the falsity of the statement shall be sufficient." No definition of the word"candidate" is contained in the Act. But sect. 63, sub-sect. 1, of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act, 1883, defines "candidate at an election" and "candidate," respectively, as:—"Any person elected to serve in Parliament at such election, and any person who is nominated as a candidate at such election, or is declared by himself or by others to be a candidate, on or after the day of the issue of the writ for such election, or after the dissolution or vacancy in consequence of which such writ has been issued."Sect. 63 of the Act of 1883 is not repealed by the Act of 1923.

Plaintiff, an operative baker, was selected by the Irish Labour Party as the Labour candidate for the representation of North Dublin City in Dáil Éireann éireann. Subsequently the defendants, the editor and printers of a newspaper called "The Irish Worker," published certain statements of and concerning the plaintiff, inter alia, one to the effect that he had acted as a"scab" during a bakers' strike. He issued a writ claiming damages for libel and an injunction to restrain defendants from the publication of libellous matters of and concerning him, and applied for an interlocutory injunction. He deposed that the statements were absolutely false, and that he believed that their publication was for the purpose of prejudicing his position as a candidate. One of the defendants made an affidavit merely stating that all the allegations were true, and that he would be able to prove them at the trial of the action. The statements were published and the writ in the action issued before the issue of the writ for the election, but after the vacancy had occurred.

Held by the Supreme Court, affirming Murnaghan J. (O'Connor J. without deciding whether plaintiff was a candidate for a Parliamentary constituency when the libel was published), that the plaintiff was entitled to an interim injunction.

Per Kennedy C.J.: The plaintiff was a candidate entitled to the protection of sect. 11 of the Prevention of Electoral Abuses Act, 1923.

Cur. adv. vult.

Kennedy C.J. :—

The plaintiff in this action, an operative baker by trade, as he informs us by his affidavit which is not contradicted, is the paid official secretary of the National Amalgamated Bakers' and Confectioners' Trade Union of Ireland, and President of the Dublin Branch of that Union, and also Vice-President of the Trades Union Congress and Labour Party. He thus holds a position of importance, trust, and responsibility in relation to Labour interests in this country. He is offering himself for election in the constituency of Dublin City (North) at the pending by-elections to Dáil Éireann éireann.

The defendants, Joseph Michael Stanley, William Balfe, and Patrick Byrne, are printers, trading as "The Gaelic Press," but Byrne, who does not appear, is said to have ceased to be a member of the firm The defendant, James Larkin, is the editor of a paper called "The Irish Worker," which is printed by "The Gaelic Press."

The plaintiff issued the writ in this action on the 29th January, 1925, claiming damages for libel and an injunction to restrain the defendants, their servants and agents, from the publication of libellous matters of and concerning the...

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